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The Fast and The Furious Dilemma – What Can Be Done To Fix The Franchise’s Massive Continuity Issue That Haunts It?

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I’m going to go on record as saying that I LOVE the Fast and Furious films (excluding Tokyo Drift)!! For me, based on the final trailers for Iron Man 3 and Fast and Furious 6, I would honestly have to say that, this summer, I am more excited to see what Dom and his crew are up to more than Tony Stark and company are. This franchise has taken a path unique to all other main stream film series to date. Most films fall off big time around their third or fourth film. In this series however, they just find a way to keep getting better and better.

The Fast and The Furious (2001)

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The film that started it all. I was a huge fan of this film and everything it brought to the table. Vin Diesel was still new enough to where you could watch him and not have preconceived notions affect the way you viewed his performance. The same could also be said for Paul Walker. This film consisted of a simple enough story, but had characters that were extremely easy to connect with, and offered a glimpse into an exciting and colorful world of street racing that audiences had never really gotten to witness before. It went on to make sixty-two million in the box office and birth a fan base for all the people who really latched on to the characters and this world they inhabited. For all the things The Fast and the Furious did right, the worse thing it did was turn Vin Diesel into a star. Instead of starring in the sequel, he followed his director (Rob Cohen) onto his next project instead and starred in XXX. If you based that decision strictly on the numbers, it was a good move as XXX grossed more than double what TF&TF was able to at $142,000,000, but XXX was neither a film, nor a character that fans embraced the way they did with Dominic Torreto and the Fast and Furious world.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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As Paul Walker did not share in the same main stream success that Vin Diesel got from the first film, he found himself matched up with a new partner for the second film of the series. Unfortunately for fans, Tyrese Gibson was no Vin Diesel. Tyrese’s Roman Pearce was loud, obnoxious, and annoying to no end. I am happy to say that his personality was toned down in part in Fast Five, and he definitely works better when he’s not consumed in such large, time consuming doses. John Singleton was kind of all over the map in his direction with this 2F2F. Walker’s Bryan now found himself on the opposite side of the law, and unfortunately, Diesel’s absence seemed to really affect Walker’s performance and the overall story in not very positive ways. The film did go on to double that of what the original did, but much like with XXX, fans were not feeling this film at all. All the money 2F2F and XXX made can be traced directly to the success of  original Fast and the Furious film thanks to the huge fan base it created. One other thing 2F2F  did give us was the character of Tej, played by Ludacris. Like Tyrese, he was also brought back to the fold in Fast Five, and was another valuable addition to the team, not only in the purpose he served, but also as a likeable character who fans of the series could rally around and invest in emotionally.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

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This is the film that becomes very problematic for the series in more than a couple of ways.

Without Diesel or Walker now, Tokyo Drift was relegated to an unknown character that no one in the audience had any vested interest in. To compound that uphill battle with audiences, he was not even a very likeable character to begin with. He lacked the personality and looks we got from Diesel and Walker in the previous films, and his bumbling southern dialect was a constant deterrent in making this a character I could relate to in any kind of way. It angered me as a fan of the series as it appeared they had completely given up on the franchise and were simply looking to eek out every last dollar by slapping the title of the series on a film that had nothing to do with either of the previous two.

Before going into the problems that this film creates for the series overall story arc, let’s focus on the two main positive aspects to come out of it.

1. The studio found a director that would eventually propel the series to levels of popularity and success that could have never been foreseen.

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While this movie was a flop in the eyes of fans, Justin Lin at least gave it a style that could not be denied. He clearly had talent and vision for filming action scenes involving cars that were unmatched up to this point in the series. One could argue that the most important thing this film did was showcase Lin’s ability to steer this franchise back on track. My guess is that Diesel, Walker, and the rest of the original cast saw this film and realized that with Lin’s direction, there was plenty left to be brought to the table in a fourth film.

2. Despite a forgettable star, villain, and supporting cast in general, Tokyo Drift did have one great supporting character in the Han.

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Sung Kang, the actor who plays Han, has on a smaller scale been to Lin what John Ratzenberger has been to Pixar. Kang actually appeared in Lynn’s first directorial effort (Better Luck Tomorrow), and his character shares many traits with that of his character in Fast Five (who also goes by the name Han). My guess would be that they are in fact the same character, although you would probably never hear Lin or Kang admit that openly. As great of a character as Han was, having him appear in Fast Five ultimately puts the franchise in a very precarious situation. Spoilers for Tokyo Drift will be heavy from this point forward, so if you haven’t seen it, you may want to stop reading now.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS HAS A SERIOUS ACHILLES HEEL…

If you have seen Tokyo Drift, you are well aware that the character of Han dies midway through the film. What that ultimately means for the series is that by having Han back for Fast Five, they are essentially saying that those events take place before those of Tokyo Drift. You even hear a reference made by Han towards the end of Fast Five where his girlfriend mentions him always having wanted to go to Tokyo, and his response is, “We’ll get there… eventually.” Now we are on to the sixth film in the series and Han is still in the mix, which just further complicates the overall timeline in this universe.

The biggest problem for the franchise has been its immense success. The series started out as films about street racing, but the scope has morphed into something so much bigger with Torreto and his crew coming up with exciting heists and taking on king pins of the crime world. This series has the potential to run for many more films as long as the ideas remain fresh and the action stays unrelenting. At some point, however, logic dictates that the events that take place in Tokyo Drift will eventually have to happen. But I am going to raise the question, do they REALLY have to happen? What can the filmmakers do, if anything, to bypass what happened in Tokyo Drift? Let’s take a look at some options I came up with and see if we can figure out what might be Lin’s best move as he pushes this franchise forward.

OPTION ONE

Publicly declare that Tokyo Drift was a mistake, and the events that take place in that film are separate from anything that has taken place, or will take place, in the current timeline of the Fast and the Furious universe. 

Fans recognize that Tokyo Drift was not a good film, and most, including myself, don’t even consider it a part of the Fast and Furious timeline to begin with. As exciting as it was to see Dom at the end of the film, that one scene really complicates matters to a degree as he is the one element that does tie that film into the others with any sort of legitimacy. Still, it’s not enough to publicly declare that Tokyo Drift in fact does not take place in the current timeline. If you look at Han in Tokyo drift and compare him to who he is in Fast Five, it makes no sense at all that his character would regress in such a manner as to find himself in the situation he is in for Tokyo Drift. For one, the guy is a multimillionaire, and he doesn’t strike me as the type of person who’s going to blow all that cash in such a short time. Let’s also not forget when we last saw Han in Fast Five, he was sitting cozy with Gal as they drove off into the sunset. They seem like a perfect couple, and as her character is not in Tokyo Drift, which forces us to assume that something has gone wrong between them, or possibly she may even have been killed at some point. Lastly, Han seems to have a much shadier disposition in Tokyo Drift than he does in Fast Five, and appears too small time in status compared to his status in Fast Five. Many, many things would have to fall into place to have his character end up how we find him in Tokyo Drift. Instead of trying to force a bunch of things to happen to this character that fans love in the next F&F films that might give hints as to how he got where he ultimately ends up, wouldn’t it just be easier for Justin Lin to just issue a statement saying “Hey, you know what? We screwed up, and we would like to acknowledge that and dissociate anything that takes place in Tokyo Drift with the rest of the F&F universe. Thanks for all your continued support!”.

OPTION TWO:

Re release Tokyo Drift and re-cut an ending where we find out that Han somehow miraculously survived the crash earlier in this film.

Absurd? Of course it is, but they did the same thing for Michelle Rodriguez’s character of Letty, and I’m pretty sure you won’t see too many fans complaining about her return to the sixth film. That post credit scene in Fast Five where we learn that she’s alive was as exciting as anything that happened in that entire film, and Marvel should take note from it on how to create a truly effective post credit scene that doesn’t leave fans wasting 10 minutes of their lives sitting around for a throwaway scene that means ultimately nothing.

l1TWO FILMS LATER…

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OPTION THREE:

Do nothing and just ignore the problem as long as you can and hope that fans like me don’t write articles like this.

This would be a bad idea. The fact that Han is still around, and the fact that I know what’s going to happen to him is a constant distraction that lingers like a scab that won’t properly heal because I can’t help but pick at it. They just need to address the problem and give us a solution.

OPTION FOUR:

At the end of Fast and Furious 6, send him on his way to Tokyo and cut ties with his character forever.

I would hate to see this happen as I love all these characters as a team and want to see them continue to operate together for many Fast and Furious films to come. The only thing worse than seeing Han depart for Tokyo would be to see Lucas Black’s character (Sean from Tokyo Drift) show up in future Fast and Furious films as Dom’s new sidekick and as a replacement for the departed Han. Losing Han would be bad enough, but talk about adding salt to an open wound…

Personally, I would love them to see Lin go with one of the first two options I laid out, but only time will tell what direction he decides to go. In the meantime, as long as the cast stays together and Lin stays planted firmly in the director’s chair, the possibilities of where this franchise could go are endless.

Here’s a little visual to leave you with. Just one more annoyance whenever I watch these films…

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And…

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Midlife crisis Han maybe?